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Breakdown - Generations Combiner Wars - Deluxe Figure

Height: 13.5cm

Articulation: 18 total points - Ball joint neck; 3 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, hinge + ball joint elbow; Swivel waist; 5 points each leg: Ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee, hinge toe, hinge ankle.

Colors: Molded cream, dark blue, purple, black; Painted dark blue, red, black, silver, purple, metallic purple.

Accessories: Combiner Extremity, sword/rifle

Release Data: Released in the United States in April of 2015 at a retail price of US$14.99

Author: ExVee


Breakdown is always worried that he is being watched. The Decepticons take full advantage of his need to remain unseen and mobilize him as a scout. Paranoia comes in handy when you're trying to avoid detection.

It's funny, this is probably the first Breakdown toy made to be G1 Breakdown since the G1 toy. Botcon did a couple of them as recolors/retools of Universe Sideswipe. An obvious choice, but one that was generally supported at the time for want of better options. It's funnier still that this comes out about a year after the most recent Fun Publications take, also in G1 colors. Needless to say, the market got a bit flooded by those by the time this started coming out. And you know, combiner functionality regardless, I think the response is justified.

Robot Mode

Breakdown is one of the first Combiner Wars figures to take active steps to hide the connector plug in the torso. A chest plate snaps down over the front, leaving only a small block of purple visible at the abdomen. Seeing this done I feel increasingly like it's a really important step to take, because it makes it come off visually like the combiner aspect is not the defining characteristic. It looks like just another Transformer, largely. Without the gimmick hardware being so front and center you start looking at Breakdown just as its own thing, and I feel like that's overall beneficial.

Breakdown is a pretty average robot in most other respects, though. Having double-jointed elbows would tend to see it stand out from other modern Deluxes, but they come at the absence of a bicep swivel. This is partly mitigated in the lower half of the elbow being a ball joint that mostly makes up the forearm or wrist swivel, but can in a limited capacity fill in for the bicep joint. It hasn't been something that I've found to be a significant problem in general, and it would be really difficult to make an actual bicep swivel work with other engineering choices, so I don't hold it against the toy particularly. I do take issue with the panels rising above the shoulders. They don't hurt much most of the time, but there's a spot that they just ruin things. Breakdown has a not small backpack, and when the arms point forward, those panels reach back just far enough to snag on the backpack and kill outward motion at the shoulders. You can compensate somewhat using the lower elbow joint and alternate angling of the shoulders, but it certainly doesn't cover all posing needs. That by itself may be the thing that most bugs me about the robot's poseability, because once you hit that limit of movement, you can't stop from noticing it all the time. It's like when you start consciously thinking about breathing, you just keep on and have to keep on manually breathing because it's on your mind. Which it is right now, so enjoy that for the next few minutes.

Breakdown has a big, square head, so it was never likely to be super mobile. But apart from the basic requirement of freely turning, you do get an adequate range of tilt to the ball joint to get some expressive posing options, which I've been pretty pleased with. I've also been rather taken with the face sculpt itself. There's something about it, it's a rather generic design, without even any hard lines on the surface of the face, but the shape seems unusual and kind of unique somehow. Although it kind of reminds me of a younger Eric Pierpoint from certain angles, which I find as weird as you do, assuming you know off the top of your head who that even is. Breakdown also has a waist swivel, but in robot mode it's pretty limited in range, and is likely more a consideration for the arm mode.

Things get strange at the hips. If you've ever had an SH Figuarts, you may be familiar with the design of some of their hip joints, where the stem of the ball joint is itself hinged through the middle of the pelvis. Breakdown in fact has an arrangement not unlike that. It's a side effect of transformation engineering, and is also the cause for some photos of Breakdown making it look like the legs were attached very low on the body. And they are just a little, but their placement looks pretty normal when you get the hip stems oriented the right way. It's not very easy, they don't seem to lock in any way, and if you push up on one leg too much, it pushes the other back down. So you have a balancing act to undertake for sure. Once you get the feel for it, you can settle the legs in position pretty easily and not need to think about it so much.

The legs have a pretty normal degree of movement to them, with ball jointed hips that have a clear range of motion - especially if you decide to take advantage of the unusual construction to get them some extra space. Plus there's a thigh swivel and a hinged knee. I'm afraid Breakdown is one of those where the proportion of thigh and shin is such that bending the leg produces very little change to the relative length of the leg. The "boots" themselves are so blocky too that the length of the thigh basically gets absorbed. Thus, bending the knee raises the foot by about half an inch, and moves the lower leg forward very insignificantly. In practice it looks more like the if the thigh had been retracted rather than raised in a bend. I won't say that it's useless for posing, but it certainly has a limited utility to it. Meanwhile, I rather like Breakdown's feet. The heels are the car's spoiler, so they're nice and flat and cover a lot of area. The toes are big and square too, so Breakdown is nicely stable. The toes and heels can move independently, but largely rely on each other to make the toy's balance work. For instance if you tried pitching a heel back a little and a toe forward for a walking pose, it's probably going to have a hard time finding a good balance point on just those two surfaces.

Breakdown does have some empty spots. The lower legs particularly, as a necessity of transformation as much as it is any other concern. The arms have a little bit, but as is often the case, there's mechanical detail sculpted inside the hollow face, including detailing up the backside of the elbow socket so it's at least interesting to look at. But the greatest offender will be the backpack. The car's hood folds back on to Breakdown's back, and the outward facing side is very empty. There's a 5mm port in the middle of the space, but not any especially meaningful attempt to disguise the part as being what it is: a leftover chunk of the other mode that had to go someplace. Generally this is where I would be proposing alternate approaches like a swivel in the hinge so the hood side could face outward and make the back look closed in. But there's actually a different intent altogether for this space, which I'll come back to in a bit.

The deco is basic, but does the job. The cream color plastic is just far enough off white to not look like it's trying to be white and not quite getting there, and it also makes it look reasonably distinctive which I like. Some of the dark blue is plastic, though where it is plastic it ends up mostly painted over with silver, leaving the biggest areas of dark blue to actually be realized in paint. The match is decent, though it's clearly a half shade or so lighter than the plastic it's imitating. This is clearly evident at the ankles where the plastic color and paint color back up to each other. The face is painted a great shade of red which has this really nice shine quality I find I particularly enjoy. The best part here though is the eyes which are painted a metallic purple. Between the red face and the blue helmet it's actually kind of difficult to pin down the eye color. The brow ridge is a bit deep, so it's not the easiest to get light in there, but the metallic quality and relatively light color of the eyes makes the best of this, reflecting light well enough so you can always see the eyes clearly, even if their color isn't carried along for the ride in all cases. There's an unexpected complexity in how it ends up working out, and I like that. Finally another little thing I thought was neat. The Decepticon insignia on the chest plate is pretty tiny and just pushed off to one side. It's the only logo visible in robot mode, and I'm amused by the total non-prominence of it.

Transformation

This is where the toy starts to seriously bother me. There's a distinct process to going between modes, though moreso from robot to vehicle than vice-versa. But the toy never seems to want to go along with what it was designed to do. There's a leg movement vaguely similar to the idea behind the Aerialbots, but from a different direction that makes it hard to manipulate, combined with really stiff hinges that further work against you. The chest, head and backpack are made to fold together in to a distinct unit, but making the chest panel align correctly is not just tricky, it seems to mostly be a matter of luck as to whether everything involved has decided to hold position long enough to get the final tabs in place to make sure everything ends up right. Getting the hood, windshield and folded arms to line up flush is a matter of other frustration in one place or another where it simply won't.

The process doesn't have a huge number of steps, and surely on paper what it's trying to do looks like a smooth, simple order of operations, but the practical reality of the toy goes very much at odds with that notion. Which is a shame, because the idea, the intent behind what's doing what seems rather cool, making me honestly wish I could enjoy actually doing it more.

Vehicle Mode

On the plus side, once you get to vehicle mode, it's pretty nice. Now, the car is functionally immobile aside from the wheels, but it ends up looking very nice. There is a little more in the way of panel seams than would help the look of the car any, but that's largely limited to the door panels. From above it actually looks reasonably solid. There's some extraneous separations on the roof, but they look less out of place than the doors made of folded arms. Impressive as well, if you look underneath there's very little obvious robot. You can see the underside of the fists, but it's about the only thing that's distinctly specifically a robot part. It may not look like the underbody of a car, but things are effectively disguised and hidden which I appreciate quite a bit.

It's a very Breakdown looking car. Which is to say it's a Lamborghini-alike combining elements of multiple body styles in a legally-distinct-from package that shares enough shapes and lines with the classic look of Breakdown. It's a fair bit more attractive to me than the heavily Gallardo-based Universe Sideswipe/Sunstreaker mold which was also twice host to Breakdown in the past. The largely cream body, with the red trapezoid on the hood and dark blue trim are a simple deco arrangement but look really nice. Breakdown even has the benefit of silver painted hubcaps. The headlight strips are picked out in silver as well, and Breakdown even gets the benefit of foglights thanks to a tiny bit of the robot's deco peeking through at the edges of the bumper strip. Tail lights are missing, but otherwise it's a satisfyingly complete looking paint job. The windshield and side windows are represented in a very high gloss black paint that looks excellent in this use and just reinforces what I've long believed, that painted opaque panels can represent windows as well or better than clear plastic when done thoughtfully. Sadly, an absence of thought appears to have been at work in designing the "15RACING" tampograph over the windshield. The letters arc downward, toward the front of the car, and look really weird doing so. I think the text needed to be more gently curved in the opposite direction to better look like they were following the windshield contour. However, my ideal situation would probably be to not have that print there at all.

I said when talking about the transformation that the toy works against what the design is trying to do. That presents itself around the windshield and roof, but it also occurs in the back end. Particularly the rear half of the car resists quite a lot tabbing together fully. Getting the spoiler halves to fit together right is especially a challenge, and can't be done by pushing in on the rear quarter panels. You really have to press on the edges of the spoiler to get them to join up, and while I'm sure I'm overreacting, it worries me having to apply that kind of pressure to these relatively thin panels. But I'm afraid it's necessary for more than just aesthetic purposes.

Combinering

Breakdown's limb modes mostly just vary off the vehicle mode, so it's the easiest starting point. The leg more than anything, as you only need to flip the windshield and hood back, flip the combiner plug around and plug the foot in. Unlike the Aerialbots who produced legs on the slimmer side of things, Breakdown looks like a big blocky chunk of rectangle. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind. Now, to maintain knee movement for Menasor or whatever combiner you include Breakdown as part of, the hood chunk has to be facing forward. It's no the most tidy look, but I think it looks worse turned around the other way even setting aside that it would lock the knee.

Arm mode is slightly more involved, requiring the legs to be flipped down as if for robot mode, but otherwise left tabbed together. Thankfully I've found that once you get the internal tabs set up in the first place, they'll tend to hold together during this just fine. Now, with the Aerialbot molds - and Drag Strip, in fact - the hip joints could be used as parts of the elbow, but Breakdown doesn't really support that, and it comes back to those hinged hip stems. In vehicle mode they're pushed down as far as they can to bring the halves of the rear end of the car together. When they're in that position, the hip joints are locked. try to move them and it pushes the legs apart. So as an arm, Breakdown only has the robot's knee joints to use as an elbow joint. But as I noted before, with the hips lowered like this, the waist joint is free to act as the bicep swivel.

Accessories

I'm gonna start with the smaller weapon here. The Stunticons have a leaning towards melee, and indeed Breakdown's weapon is a decent chunk of sword - nothing on Motormaster of course, but different scales, you know. It's obviously not just made as a sword. Breakdown is a little bit special among his team in having something that obviously pulls double duty as a gun. The hand guard of the sword is a 5mm peg, letting the weapon be held as a rifle. It's really basic, and helped some in selling itself as a gun with the big cylinder just in front of the grips, and in its way the tab sticking up lends to the image a little. There is definitely some abstraction to it, and I'm of the feeling that it would be treated as a backup function rather than the main weapon. Plus as "gunblade" style weapons go, this is way down the low end of ridiculous looking, so definite points there.

The rifle peg is a little on the thick side and while it fits in the fist enough to stay, it's not comfortable feeling to push it far enough in to look natural. And to my disappointment it seems to resist altogether pegging in from below the fist so the weapon could be used as something like a tonfa - or even better, looking like an arm-length switchblade. Not that such a thing would even be a new concept in a Transformers toy. That big tab is the means to store the weapon. In car mode you can fit it in the slots in the middle of the door panels. In robot mode it can go in the same place - the stress relief slot for the shoulder joint, which ends up being a decent looking place to keep it when not in use. Plus, it's positioned well enough to look like it would work as an arm cannon so you even have three ways to use this part.

The star, however, is the Combiner Extremity, and this is doing a good bit of work outside playing hand and foot. It's designed to emulate G1 Breakdown's large cannon, but in a way that can fit in with the vehicle mode a little better. There's an engine block sculpted on top, and the gun barrels are much more of the appearance of huge air intakes. Now, this wouldn't be any good if it can't hook up to the car, right? So since the 5mm peg is also on top, it needs a different means so the detail isn't wasted. So on the back of the spoiler, there's a little slot, and then two very short tabs on Breakdown's roof. A tab on the thumb/heel fits on the spoiler. Not enough to hold it in place on its own, so you then press the rest down on the roof to catch those shallow tabs, which solidifies the entire thing and leaves the ridiculous external engine rock solid on the car. It's amazing to me just for how unintrusive the connection points are so you don't have unsightly plugs or tabs or anything when you choose not to set this up. And to date this is easily the best integration of the Combiner accessory with the alternate mode. I'm super impressed, and we're not even done yet.

In robot mode, there's that hollow backpack deal which I said we'd come back around to. Now, you'd look at that space, which has a 5mm socket in there and you'd think naturally that you should plug the Combiner Extremity in there so it can hide the open space. And, well, you're half right. If you do it this way, it does cover up the opening, and parts are positioned well enough that you can lift the hood off the back and make it like a cannon backpack, which is neat enough. But it's not how it's meant to work. On the sides of the Extremity piece, there's notches. Those slide down the inward-facing edges at the top of the backpack. Doing this way, the engine detail and the 5mm port face outward, letting you get the Combiner part much closer in to the body. Now it doesn't just cover up the open backpack, it actually fills in that space. Breakdown is designed not just to have a place for that part to go besides being hand held - a task that not every figure so far has managed all that well - and takes it one step farther so it can be used to fill in part of the toy that by its design had to be a hollow chunk. I'm all kinds of impressed by the way this was made to work together, and honestly figuring all of this out since it's not reflected in the instructions at all did a lot to improve my feelings on the toy.

Incidentally, half of this part is painted purple. A paint chip on mine shows me that chunk is cast in black which would seem to follow, given most or all of the others have their individual weapons on the same sprue as part of their hand-feet. If you have the luxury of buying in a store and are presented with a selection, don't forget to give this a once over for paint defects like you would the rest!

Closing Remarks

I think initially I was looking for Breakdown to be another Aerialbot, and it very much isn't. That was presented to me in a very unpleasant way the first time I tried to transform it and that still remains a mark against it. It's clearer to me that the steps involved are simple on the same line of thinking as wave 1 benefitted from, but it's a problem of the moving parts tending to work against you and themselves that makes it not very enjoyable. Thing is, once you adjust to that, Breakdown is nice. The vehicle mode is good and beefy, the robot mode isn't perfect, but doesn't have flaws to a serious detriment. And when you get down to the integrated storage for the combiner-specific accessory in both modes, you're seeing some inspired work. Breakdown could do with some tightening up here and there, but in general it rates a Good on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Scale.

Put it this way, we're reasonably assured this will come back as Sunstreaker in a couple waves with some degree of retooling, and while I already have a pretty nice Sunstreaker I'll happily pick up this mold again for that role - so long as nothing absurdly dumb happens in the execution of it, anyway. Heck, with the chest plate covering the combiner plug, there's probably at least a few characters I'd be fine getting this base design as, with or without an association to a specific combiner team. That's probably the biggest success I see in this: it's good enough to consider as just another dude that turns in to a car, not a combining dude that is a car.



ReviewerExVee  
DateApril 8th 2015  
Score 7 stars (7 out of 10)  
Reads3430
LinkCombiner Wars Breakdown Review Album  


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